History of Sangria

By Mark Orwell

Sangria originated in Spain and eventually spread to become one of the most popular drinks in the world, especially at parties because of its fruity taste and the fact that people love to experiment with ingredients. Typically it is made of wine, brandy and chunks of fruit, though there is no one type of fruit, wine or brandy that needs to be used. As sangria traveled from country to country and restaurant to restaurant, new versions were created and individualized.


Sangria was first made in Spain in the 1600s, where the traditional Rioja wine was used along with local brandy and fruits. In southern Spain, it was made from peach and nectarines. It was called Zurra. It began to spread throughout Europe as other countries began to make it with their own local wine varieties. In 1964, sangria made its first appearance in the United States at the world’s fair. It has since then become a popular punch that is made from a variety of wines and fruit juices.


There are three traditional types of Sangria that all have their origins rooted in Spain. The traditional sangria goes by that name and is made from a red wine, brandy and fruit such as apples, pears or grapes. Sangria blanco has the same ingredients, except it is made from white wine or sparkling wine. Zurra is made in southern Spain and uses red wine, but it only made with the juice of peaches and nectarines.


Those who are not fluent in Spanish sometimes mistake the name of this drink for “sangre,” which translates to blood. In reality, sangria does make reference to blood, though the word is more closely related to “bleeding.” It was given this name because traditionally sangria was made with wines that had a deep red color, which looked very much like blood.


Sangria first began to be made in Spain, in particular along the coastal regions where major cities were located and near vineyards farther inland. Very quickly it spread to Portugal and the Spanish colonies. As other European countries began to be more interrelated in trade, sangria seeped into countries such as France, where new wines were used to make it. Late in the 20th century, Sangria made it to the United States and the rest of North America.


Sangria is an easily identifiable drink because of the unique use of fruits in its creation. It either has a deep red color or a slightly yellowed color, depending on whether red or white wine is used. Pink sangria is also available, using zinfandel wines instead. Sangria is served with lots of ice because the tastes are best when it is kept at a cold temperature. Dropped inside the sangria are pieces of fruit, which is chosen by the person who is making the punch.
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